Thursday, December 27, 2007

on turning 30

It was another memorable birthday in Nicaragua, between my roommate's house decorating, pancake breakfast with 2 other dear friends (Beth and Alan, thank you!), a couple of long-distance phone calls, and several adventures (including seeing a new view of the gorgeous crater lake Laguna de Apoyo, visiting an old relic railroad tunnel, and hitting my first pinata--I guess the kid within never really grows up!) in the little community of Diriomito outside of Masaya, the heart of Nicaraguan artesania and folklore, where my Nica friend Johanna's family lives.

Other than the dates on the calendar, however, it's hard to believe that this year marks my entrance into a third decade of life. At one time the college years were supposed to be time when you "found yourself"--though nowadays it seems like it has expanded to include all of the 20-somethings. For better or worse in my case, however, I seem to be no closer to that all-elusive "settling down" than I was 10 years ago. And for all my many adventures following God's call here in Nicaragua, for all of the wonderful friendships I have made and wonders of creation I have seen, all of which have stretched and grown me in ways I can scarcely begin to explain, some of my most personal dreams still seem tantalizingly far from reach.

As 2007 comes to a close (and with it, half of my time in this country), in my heart there is a sense that time is passing---and a burning question arises: what will I do with the time I have left? And another--for what purpose have I truly been brought to this place? And will I fulfill it?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

quoting henri

I was flipping through a book before lending it to a friend, and I came across a passage that expresses my heart perfectly. So I give it to you as a gift.

"I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn't be to know the people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them."
-Henri Nouwen, in Gracias, A Latin American Journal
Thinking about this in the context of Advent, I am reminded of how Christ is the definition of incarnational ministry...that God loves us so much that He was not content to remain in heaven or save us in some surgically clean way...but that Christ was born into all of the messiness of fallen creation, that He knows us by name, but not from afar...but rather from having walked our very streets, from having physically touched, from listening, suffering, eating, crying....yes, this is the miracle of Christmas.
God IS with us. Aleluia.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

la boda en selva negra

All I can say is, look at the pictures. It was beautiful, touching, and made me long for my own.

Monday, December 17, 2007

christmas in managua

Alicia, Laura, and I on the evening of a Christmas concert we went to at the national theater downtown last week
The Christmas tree of lights and the old Cathedral in Managua's old center

It's hard to tell, but that's a poster of the virgin Mary hanging in front of the Cathedral

Saturday, December 15, 2007

top 10 reasons...

It's official-- in Nicaragua, walking on the street is definitely preferable to the sidewalk. At least in residential neighborhoods. Which is where me, Andrea, and my good friends Beth & Alan were paseando last night picking up fritanga food on our way to their house for dinner.

Below, I give you me and Alan's hot-of-the-press list of the top 10 reasons to walk on the street rather than the sidewalk.

1. At any given moment, the sidewalk ends.

2. Sidewalks here have more potholes and other "gringo traps" than the roads.

3. People at night sit out on the "porch" which in many cases IS the sidewalk, making it impassable.

4. Walking on the sidewalk makes one much more susceptible to be scared out of one's wits by a guard dog who thinks you are too close to their property.

5. Speaking of dogs, they frequently leave their um, tracks, on the sidewalks.

6. In some cases sidewalks are actually the extension of someone's tile driveway, which when slick with water can cause one to lose their balance and/or drop everything they are carrying.

7. There is more light on the road, which makes it safer.

8. You can more easily hail down a taxi if you are already standing on the street.

9. You have a better, less obstructed view of what's happening around you from the street.

10. Hmmm. Well, I seem to have forgotten this last one. Too much good fritanga food, I guess. (Ah, of course, the sidewalks also are often the homes of food vendors, like the one pictured above.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

aventura, carazo style

I don't what it is about the 1st weekend in December, but so far here in Nicaragua, it has meant LOTS of adventure. A year ago this week I was enjoying the Rio Tuma, high in the mountains of Matagalpa, and getting horseback riding lessons (the hard way!). This year I was in another brisk autumn-like climate, only much closer to home--in the hills of Carazo, just southwest of Managua. (How further south = more cold is a mystery for the climatologists--not me.)

The reason for the trip? My new Nica friend Wendy (for whom I am writing part of this post in Spanish) was celebrating her birthday and invited me to her hometown for the weekend. Nos reunimos en Jinotepe, y pasabamos una hora buscando comida y otros preparativos for the fiesta that night. La parte mas chistosa fue cuando fuimos a la casa de la senora que iba a preparar el queque, y ni habia recordado que tenia que hacerlo! ("Es un show completo," dice Wendy.) After struggling through the crowds in the market, we took the bus from Jinotepe down the road to Santa Teresa. Wendy's house is just off the carretera, and it a cute little green bungalow that her step-dad designed and constructed all by himself! Estaba muy impresionada con todas las plantas y flores que tenian--de veras es como un paraiso alli! Wendy's parents were just adorable, and they welcomed me with open arms-and told me lots of stories about their community history (the whole area apparently used to be a coffee producing region). After a delicious lunch we went back to Jinotepe to pick up the bendito cake that almost didn't get made for the occasion and searched in vain for an icechest because there was no light (apparently the transformer had blown out a few days earlier, and since friday was a holiday, well...). That night a small group of Wendy's friends and I celebrated by eating Wendy's favorite dish (a Nica version of chop suey), singing, and telling stories. I was really excited at bed time because I got to wear long sleeves and pants!

La manana seguiente es donde realmente empieza la aventura completa. The next morning Wendy wanted to take me to visit her abuela, who lives a rural area about 45 minutes away. So we boarded a bus and headed into the middle of the campo, where most of Wendy's mom's family lives. After a round of introductions and some soda (Nica etique rule #1: never show up empty-handed at someone's house. Rule #2: whenever possible, bring Coca-cola.), Wendy and I headed out with some of the cousins down to the river. It should have taken about an hour, but when we got there, the muchachos told us that the water looked too low and we should follow them to another much more fun place with more water to play in. "Siganos!" decian...2 horas despues...todavia estuvimos caminando a traves de palos, piedras, agua, y quien sabe que mas...

Just when I was completely without hope that we would ever arrive, we did. We ate our ham sandwiches and the little bit of Coke that remained, and then it was playtime. We had a great time sitting in the waterfalls, navigating the slippery rocks, and enjoying the cool air. and Wendy and I took a ton of photos...

Eventually, we headed back up the hill and through the fields and forests through which we had come--thankfully though it was long, the return trip was not nearly as long as the viaje to arrive. Wendy's abuela had made us a delicious chicken and yucca soup, rice, and platanos, which we wolfed down, only to realize we had missed the last bus of the day, and would have to wait for a taxi to pass. Esperamos el taxi por un rato, llego un muchacho con raspados, que comimos con mucho animo, y aunque no queriamos caminar ni una vara mas, fuimos caminando hasta que llego un taxi que nos llevo a la Teresa, the closest town. We got a microbus from where the taxi left us to the entrance where the highway is, then another micro 2 km until we were 4 blocks from the house. Midway through this last stage, it started to pour. Wendy and I were both laughing, it was so comical. All this walking, all this way, rendidas estabamos, y comenzo a llover...que clase de dia tuvimos, hasta el fin!

We took shelter under a bus stop landing until it stopped, reached the house, where we showered, dried off, and chatted into the night. Then, at 5am this morning, I awoke to make the return trip to Managua in order to be at the office by 8am!
Whew! I am exhausted just thinking about it. Tanta diversion, tanta actividad, tanta platica...pero todo lo disfrute, y doy gracias a wendy y su familia por hospedarme, por compartir sus vidas conmigo, y por ayudarme a sentir muy en casa! Decimos en ingles, "la amistad es como un arbol de refugio, y me senti eso mucho este fin de semana. Hasta la proxima!

What a wonderful thing it is to have new friends to make special memories with.
p.s. the link to the photo album is below. ;-)

field of dreams--or maybe just trigo

Taken in Carazo, one of the few places in Nicaragua where one can actually wear long sleeves without sweating at this time of year.
(In honor of "Best Shot Monday", inspired by my dear friend Dawn)
See the complete album.
The tale of the weekend's adventures soon to come.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

speaking of photos...

At a recent women's conference in Chinandega, this group of girls did a dance like what might have been done in the OT
Nicaragua's next generation

Such bright buildings!

kids love photos

I was recently on a work trip visiting a number of schools and it's a universal fact that if you pull out a camera, kids will flock to you and ask you to take their picture. And then, of course, they will want to see it. :-)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

joy and suffering

"Living as we do in a world that suffers so much, two opposing possibilities can easily tempt us: either to turn our backs and live oblivious to the pain or to allow the pain to overwhelm us and despair to take up residence in our hearts. The truly faithful option is to face the pain and live joyfully in the midst of it. Those who suffer most remind us of how tragic and arrogant it would be for us to lose hope on behalf of people who have not lost theirs. They are teachers of joy."

- Joyce Hollyday, Then Your Light Shall Rise
[Photo: La Chureca, Managua]

Sunday, December 02, 2007

what great things?

"I just felt like the Lord wanted me to encourage you, that He has great things in store for you. Great things."

Those were the words of a young north american woman holding a baby who approached me during worship this morning at church. I did not know her, nor had I ever seen her before.

It came at an apt moment, as I have been thinking lately that while life is busy here, sometimes I wonder if I am truly seeing what it is God wants me to be doing. I am half-way through my commitment here, and I feel like time has disappeared so fast, and my biggest fear is that these 3 years will go by and I will have missed some profound or essential part of the reason God called me here...some door left unopened, some window that I never had the vision to notice.

More than ever, I need sight for the eyes of my heart and ears attuned to a Voice that often seems crowded out by my own. And, as the Advent season begins, more than ever I need to experience Emmanuel anew in my soul.